These Traditional Parkin Biscuits or Cookies have all the tasty flavours of classic English Parkin Cake. Each biscuit is packed with the festive flavours of rich ginger, cinnamon, oatmeal, and treacly syrup, and topped with a toasted nutty almond. If you love the flavour of British oaty hobnob biscuits you'll love these wee gems with their crisp edges and softer chewy insides. Perfect for dunking in a cuppa tea.
This recipe for parkin biscuits is prepared with vegan-friendly ingredients as they do not require dairy butter, milk, or eggs. A few everyday pantry ingredients are all that is required.
During the past few years the price of groceries has sky-rocketed especially the cost of butter and eggs so many more people are beginning to release that tasty traditional bakes can be prepared more economically and no animal ingredients are required for tasty home-baking.
Although the frugal and savvy cooks during the 1940s war years of food rationing and shortages, and the 1930s Great Depression eras, already worked this one out!
❓ What is a traditional parkin cake?
Parkin cake originates in Northern England most notably Yorkshire and Lancashire where the two regions have slight variations in the cake ingredients. A Yorkshire Parkin contains black treacle and medium oatmeal, which often creates a drier biscuit-like cake whereas the Lancashire Parkin usually features golden syrup and rolled oats.
In essence, parkin is a dense, rich type of gingerbread which although is at first drier than gingerbread, the parkin does becomes more moist and sticky as it ages, so the cake tends to be baked several days or even a week before it is eaten.
Parkin cake is traditionally baked for the Halloween festivities, as well as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night on the 5th November, where it is traditional to eat a slice of Parkin along with a mug of milk in front of the bonfire. Although parkin is tasty at any time during the autumn and winter months, and if your a parkin fan then you can enjoy parkin at any time of the year!
📜 Origin of parkin
Mentions of parkin date back to the 1700s but the origins of the cake go way back to British Medieval times where a Tharf cake, bread or biscuit was baked.
In the North of England, oats was a cheaper grain to grow compared to wheat, and so when the oats were harvested at the beginning of November the Tharf cake or biscuit was baked.
Other names for the tharf cake was Thor cake or Tharve cake and the name is said to translate from Old English to mean unleavened or plain as the cake resembles a flat biscuit.
Historically, tharf cakes were also eaten during the Twelfth night or Twelve days after Christmas, and traditionally on the 1st November on All Saints Day or 2nd November, during All Souls Day. Other traditional medieval biscuits for All Souls Day are Soul Cakes which are a crisp biscuit that also contain oatmeal and spices.
In some English villages the first of November was also known as Caking Day and the males of the town would go from door to door asking for money so that they could purchase Tharf cakes!
Nowadays, there are many variations of parkin and lots of different family recipes which results in many variations of parkin - including parkin biscuits.
There's nothing better or tastier than a few traditional parkin biscuits with a nice cup of strong brewed tea. One sugar lump or two? As parkin cake likely evolved from medieval Tharf or Thor biscuit-like cakes our parkin biscuits are a bite of delicious history!
❓ What are parkin biscuits or cookies?
Parkin biscuits originate from the classic British parkin cake which evolved from the old Thor or Tharf un-leavened biscuit-like cakes. Parkin is also a type of gingerbread cake, but with one major difference - parkin also contains oatmeal or rolled oats.
The best thing about parkin biscuits is that their flavour and texture deliciously develop as they sit in the biscuit tin just like a Parkin cake, so they are the ideal bake for filling up the cookie jar.
🍪 Be-Ro parkin biscuits
This vegan recipe for parkin biscuits is adapted from an old Be-Ro recipe that was found in the 18th edition of the Be-Ro vintage recipe booklet that was published in 1955. Be-Ro is a British flour company that was founded way back in 1875. Over the years, Be-Ro have produced many much loved Be-Ro recipe booklets filled with tasty sweet and savoury baking recipes as well as amassing a loyal fan of bakers.
The original Be-Ro parkin biscuit recipe featured eggs, dark syrup, dairy milk, and less spices. For our adaption we added more syrup in the form of black treacle, and more milk albeit soya milk, and the spices were upped from one teaspoon of ginger to two teaspoons, and a teaspoon of cinnamon was also included.
The original recipe did not contain baking powder or salt, but our egg-free adaption does include baking powder to give the biscuits a little lift during baking and a wee pinch of salt to aid the baking powder in doing its magic.
Additionally the original recipe states to rub the margarine into the dried ingredients to create a breadcrumb like texture, however we melted the margarine and simply mixed it into the dry ingredients along with the treacle and milk, and this different method worked well for our parkin biscuits.
🥣 How to prepare
These vegan parkin biscuits are simple to prepare. The biscuit dough does not require pre-chilling before being formed into biscuits and baked for a quick 15 minutes.
Parkin biscuits are perfect for when you have a hankering for the flavours of traditional parkin cake but don't want to switch the oven on for an hour or longer to bake the cake and then wait days for the cake to develop in the cake tin!
Step 1: Melt the margarine in a small saucepan and set aside.
Step 2: Add the medium oatmeal, plain flour, baking powder, caster sugar, pinch of salt, and ginger and cinnamon powders to a mixing bowl and stir well.
Step 3: Next, add the black treacle [or molasses or golden syrup] and soya milk [or your usual milk].
Step 4: Pour the melted margarine into the mixing bowl and mix everything together until it comes together into a biscuit dough.
Step 5: Scoop up heaped teaspoonfuls of biscuit dough and roll the dough into a smooth biscuit ball.
Step 6: Gently press a whole or halved almond onto each biscuit.
Step 7: Bake for 15 minutes.
Step 8: Cool on a wire rack.
📋 Recipe notes
Store the biscuits within a cookie jar, biscuit tin, or food container. If storing within a plastic type food container wrap in a layer of parchment paper and a layer of kitchen foil. Store for 5-7 days, possibly longer if stored in a cool and away from sources of moisture.
Or freeze for 2-3 months, well wrapped in food wrap, a layer of kitchen foil and perhaps also pop the biscuits into a freezer bag.
Black treacle is a thick, dark syrup that's a by-product of refining sugar. It has a rich, slightly bitter flavour and is commonly used in traditional British baking to give richness and a unique treacly taste to bakes like gingerbread, treacle scones, treacle buns, Christmas puddings, Clootie dumplings, and, of course, parkin biscuits and parkin cake.
No, black treacle and golden syrup are not the same. Black treacle, similar to molasses, is a dark syrup with a rich, slightly bitter flavour, and is the result of the third boiling in the sugar-making process. It's thicker and has a much stronger almost liquorice flavour compared with golden syrup.
Golden syrup is obtained from the first boiling of the sugarcane and is lighter in colour and flavour. It has a texture similar to honey and is much sweeter and more buttery in taste compared to black treacle.
While they can sometimes be substituted for each other in recipes depending on the desired outcome, they will impart different flavors and colours to the finished bake. In parkin biscuits, replacing black treacle with golden syrup will result in a lighter, sweeter biscuit.
Yes, black treacle can be replaced if its difficult to source. You can use molasses for a similar rich treacle flavour, although molasses can be a bit stronger so perhaps go with a mild molasses. Golden syrup is a lighter, sweeter alternative that will still give you the stickiness and moisture that the treacle provides, but with a milder taste.
For a nut-free parkin biscuit you could use a few seeds such as a pumpkin or sunflower seed as these will toast nicely in the oven and provide extra texture similar to the almond. Alternatively, for those who need to avoid all types of seeds, you could top the biscuits with a piece of candied cherry or candied fruit peel, or omit the topping.
The type of oatmeal that is best for parkin biscuits is known as Scottish oatmeal or medium oatmeal or baking oatmeal. This type of oatmeal has been ground into a finer, less coarser textured oatmeal compared to pinhead or steel-cut oatmeal.
Below is an image of the oatmeal we used for this recipe - Hamlyns Scottish Oatmeal which was sourced from our local Co-op supermarket [UK].
If you can't find medium oatmeal, or an oatmeal which states on the packaging that it is suitable for baking, then simply use steel-cut oatmeal, pinhead oatmeal or Irish oatmeal. The texture of the biscuits will be slightly more coarser but they will still be tasty.
Alternatively, add the steel-cut oatmeal to a blender or grinder and pulse a few times to get a finer texture. Its important to know that although medium oatmeal may be ground, it is not the same as oat flour as the texture is still little bits of oatmeal.
These vegan parkin biscuits have all the flavours of traditional parkin cake, they are rich with treacly syrup and oaty like a British hobnob biscuit, and perfectly spiced with ginger and cinnamon. Each biscuit is crisp on the outside and softer on the insides but packed with delicious rustic textures of oatmeal. The flavours and textures will continue to tastily develop as they sit in the biscuit tin. If you love parkin cake or gingerbread cake you'll love these tasty wee vegan biscuits which are perfect for the festive season.
👩🏽🍳 More vegan recipes using oatmeal
Once you have a bag of oatmeal that you may have purchased for one recipe you can use it up in lots of other tasty wholesome meat-free recipes!
We particularly love this Orcadian Oatmeal Soup which is packed with carrots, swede, and leeks and is a simple but very tasty soup. And for special occasions we enjoy our Vegan Sage and Onion Meatloaf especially served with lots of delicious Brussel sprouts, mashed potatoes and gravy.
Our Soul Cakes recipe uses oatmeal, and similar to parkin biscuits, they also stem from the medieval times. Soul cakes are actually more akin to a biscuit than a cake and they can be dunked in a cup of tea or enjoyed as a cracker and spread with vegan butter and topped with slices of vegan cheese.
Finally our Vegan Scottish Skirlie historically known as ''poor-man's haggis'' will make good use of your oatmeal as the skirlie can be enjoyed along with any meal, as a side, as a garnish or topping, or as part of a stuffing, or even just enjoy a spoonful as a snack.
***please note: for US measurements click the 'US customary button' within the recipe and the measurements will switch to tablespoons, cups, and ounces.***
Traditional Parkin Biscuits
- baking tray/cookie sheet
- parchment paper
- Small saucepan
- wire rack
- Mixing bowl
- 115 grams plain flour [all-purpose flour]
- 115 grams caster sugar
- 115 grams medium oatmeal [type intended for baking/or use steel-cut oats]
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 pinch salt
- 57 grams vegan margarine [such as Stork]
- 46 grams black treacle [or molasses] [can replace with golden syrup] [just over 2 tablespoons]
- 30 millilitres soya milk [or your usual milk] [2 tablespoon]
- 21 whole almonds [skinless/blanched] [alternatively use a halved almond for each biscuit]
- Preheat the oven to 160 Fan / 180C / 356 Fahrenheit / Gas 4.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. [if you can only bake one tray at a time and the biscuits do not all fit on the one tray, the mixture will be fine to sit on the counter top until the first round of biscuits are baked]
- Over a low heat, gently melt the vegan margarine in the small saucepan and set aside.57 grams vegan margarine
- Add the flour, baking powder, sugar, oatmeal, salt, ginger and cinnamon powder to the mixing bowl and stir everything together until thoroughly combined.115 grams plain flour, 115 grams caster sugar, 115 grams medium oatmeal, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoon ginger powder, 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, 1 pinch salt
- Make a little well in the centre by pushing some of the mix to the side to expose the bottom of the mixing bowl. Scoop the black treacle into the well, along with the soya milk, and melted margarine.30 millilitres soya milk, 46 grams black treacle
- With a mixing spoon, stir the mixture together until it sticks together into a cookie dough. This may take a few minutes.
- Using a teaspoon scoop up heaped amounts of cookie dough and using the palms of your hands roll each ball into a smooth cookie ball. Each cookie dough ball will weigh about 20-23grams [about ¾ oz].
- Leave at least an inch to one and a half inch [2-3cm] between each cookie.
- Press a whole or halved almond gently into each cookie, but don't press down too hard.21 whole almonds
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes. [check fan ovens a few minutes before the 15 minute mark as these ovens tend to cool quicker]The cookies will have spread but will not be too thin, and will have darkened and be firm to the touch. Don't press too hard as the biscuits will be soft inside but will firm up more as they cool.
- Leave the biscuits to cool on the tray for at least 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Put the kettle on, stick your feet up, and have a nice cup of tea and a few crunchy biscuits. Cause you're worth it!
- Nutritional information is provided for guidance only and is not an exact calculation as ingredients vary.
- Store parkin cookies within a cookie jar, biscuit tin or food container.
- If storing within a plastic type food container wrap in a layer of parchment paper and a layer of kitchen foil.
- Store for 5-7 days, possibly longer if stored in a cool, dry and dark area.
- Or freeze for 2-3 months, well wrapped in food wrap, a layer of kitchen foil and perhaps also pop into a freezer bag.
- Black treacle can be replaced with molasses or golden syrup.
- The vegan-friendly margarine used was Stork baking spread.
- Its best to use an oatmeal that is intended for baking, and this is sometimes called 'medium oatmeal' or 'Scottish oatmeal' which is ground to a finer consistency compared to steel-cut oatmeal. Although the medium oatmeal is ground it is not exactly flour-like in texture, it is just smaller and finer compared to steel-cut oatmeal.
- However, steel cut oats or pinhead oatmeal can still be used, and perhaps but not absolutely necessary, place the oats into a food processor for a few seconds to grind them into smaller pieces.
- The oatmeal used for this recipe was Hamlyn's Scottish Oatmeal which we sourced in our local Co-op [UK].
- We are a vegan family recipe blog so all our ingredient recommendations are for plant-based and vegan-friendly ingredients - such as plant-based milk, butter, and margarine - however if you have different dietary requirements you can use your usual ingredients.
Prepared these traditional parkin biscuits? Do let us know how you got on by dropping us a comment below, and clicking the recipe star ratings above. Thanks so much! Jacq x